Buying on the Dips

“Like the California housing market, the EMS industry goes through a consolidation frenzy every few years. And, like the housing market, by the time people are writing about the trend, valuations have peaked and are on the way down.”

So wrote Circuits Assembly columnist Sue Mucha in the September 2007 issue. She may well be right. However, what we are also seeing is a small run on EMS companies, perhaps motivated by those lower valuations.

To wit: In the past fews weeks a pair of publicly held EMS firms have announced insider buyouts. Suntron, the defense specialist, is being taken private by Thayer-Blum Funding, the equity firm that already holds 90% of the company’s stock. And HEI, a small, closely held EMS company in Minneapolis, is deregistering from the Nasdaq in order to save certain expenses.

In both cases, the companies are certain to save millions on Sarbanes-Oxley compliance and other paperwork. As a tradeoff, they risk not being able to access the capital the public markets can bring (although Thayer-Blum, which has a long history of investments in this sector, including the now defunct EFTC and Key Electronics certainly has the means to scrape together a few bucks).

Both firms were trading at or near 52-week lows when the announcements came down. The question now is, as valuations slide, Who else will be snatched up on the cheap?

Comments? See below, or email me at mbuetow [at]

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About Mike

Mike Buetow is president of the Printed Circuit Engineering Association ( He previously was editor-in-chief of Circuits Assembly magazine, the leading publication for electronics manufacturing, and PCD&F, the leading publication for printed circuit design and fabrication. He spent 21 years as vice president and editorial director of UP Media Group, for which he oversaw all editorial and production aspects. He has more than 30 years' experience in the electronics industry, including six years at IPC, an electronics trade association, at which he was a technical projects manager and communications director. He has also held editorial positions at SMT Magazine, community newspapers and in book publishing. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois. Follow Mike on Twitter: @mikebuetow